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Posted at 02:12 PM ET, 02/06/2013

Big Brother in the Prince George’s schools?


With the digitization of society, all sorts of new problems have arisen as to ownership rights, sharing and controlling someone’s creative and intellectual work.

Now, the Prince George’s County Board of Education seems to be raising the controversies to the next level.

A seemingly bizarre policy proposal by the board could mean that those pictures of space aliens that little Johnny drew in his second-grade art class belong to the county. Or a teacher who spends a few extra hours at home on a Saturday making sure her lesson plans are well-thought-out might find that the county could be use them in a for-profit product from which she will derive no money.

Ownership of work done in educational institutions has always been an issue, but the new policy is causing some commotion. The Post reports that Colorado-based education expert Kevin Welner believes that the Prince George’s proposal may be revenue-driven. There’s a growing market for online teachers’ plans.

But it could be that Prince George’s schools aren’t as greedy as all this seems. The problem could be that their proposal is just too broadly worded.

The bigger issue is one that plagues our society now that the Web and social media are in just about everyone’s lives. The same issue feeds both, and it hasn’t really been addressed. It comes down to big technology companies controlling your content without giving you a dime for it.

I, for one, am still confused regarding who owns that photo I might have taken and posted on Facebook. My general impression, and I am no expert, is that I own the photo but that Facebook can, in certain circumstances, use it in its marketing. If I leave Facebook, I have to make sure that all my stuff is deleted properly so it won’t sit unused in a server somewhere until it shows up in marketing material years later. Ditto stuff I might want to keep hidden from all but friends.

Individuals are taking precautions. One of my daughters, for instance, just finished her work toward an art history and studio art degree at a Virginia college. She’s part of a wide network of fellow artists, musicians and the like who communicate constantly through social media.

They seem to have an unspoken rule: If they have created a painting or a photo or a song they really like, they are careful about not placing it or how they place it on Facebook. They don’t want to find it in some marketing campaign for which they get no credit or royalties.

One wonders what would happen if the Prince George’s schools went berserk and demanded that that every macaroni-pasted-on-a-paper-plate masterpiece by every first-grader be handed over because it might have some revenue-generating value to the school.

If that were to happen, students, parents, teachers and other members of the school community would be right to hide or do whatever else they need to protect their intellectual property. Think of it. You could have secret societies of P.G. County sixth-grade scribblers or finger painters.

This may be paranoid, but would Big Administrator be watching?

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon’s Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By  |  02:12 PM ET, 02/06/2013

 
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